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Donia Camarena -- December 2001 -- Disneyland


December 13 - 16, 2001

Cast:

  • Donia - Semi-frequent visitor, Certified Disney Fanatic
  • Shane - Semi-frequent visitor, Donia's Disney husband
  • Jillian - 4th trip, age 11 and a HUGE Eeyore fan
  • Victoria - 3rd trip, age 9 and an up-and-coming Disney Fanatic

Transportation:

Plan:

Due to the fact that we live in Northern California, we usually get up EARLY and drive to Disneyland. If you time it right, you can be there by noon. BUT, this time is a little different. My mother got the travel bug and wanted to pass that on others. Since Victoria has never flown before and we were able to fly for $287 for all 4 of us, my parents booked the flight as an early anniversary gift to us all. We will take a Super Shuttle from the Airport to the hotel. I can't see renting a car to sit in the parking lot of the hotel.

Actual:

Being the person that I am, I kept looking for the best deal. I was able to get the same price for the airfare, but at an airport closer to the park. So I snatched it. Our plane departed at 8:05 am and landed at 9:20 am. That meant that we were out of the house by 5:15 am and at the airport by 6:00 am. Check-in was great. We were through all security checks by 6:30. We had breakfast and got our boarding passes. We were able to get the bulkhead seats that face each other. This worked out nice for our family. My daughters were a little nervous about flying, but enjoyed it once we took off. The flight was great and the landing was perfect.

Once we landed and got our luggage, we walked outside to the shuttle coordinator and hopped right onto our shuttle. There was one other person that we dropped off on the way to Disneyland but the trip was very quick.

Hotel:

Plan:

I first made a reservation for the new Holiday Inn adjacent to the Disneyland Park for $79 per night. But I hadn't seen any reviews about it, so I kept searching. I was able to find a two-room suite at Embassy Suites for $107 per night. That includes breakfast in the morning. Since my stepson might come with us, I booked it real fast. This is what we were looking for. I really enjoy the Embassy Suites hotels and this is a great rate. There is a new one opening up November 16th that is even closer to the park. Once that opens up, I will try to get a better rate. But at this point, I am very happy with the reservations.

Actual:

The new Embassy Suites opened up at the end of November. The first rate was for $107.00, then I was able to get a rate of $98.10 (AAA). But about two weeks before we left, I checked the rates one more time and found a special for $89.00! The hotel was brand new and really nice. We really loved having a two-room suite and free breakfast in the morning. The hotel staff was very helpful and went out of their way to help us. The hotel shuttle operated twice an hour and the drivers were very nice. We have decided that this is our hotel. We will try to continue staying here in the future. It is well worth it.

Touring Plans:

Day 1, Thursday, December 13, 2001

California Adventure

Plan:

Our plane leaves at 9:30 am and we will arrive around 10:40 am. Our plan is to go to our hotel, leave our luggage and get to the park by 12:00. We decided to do California Adventure the first day since it is the new park and we don't think that we will need a complete day to see everything. We will try to do Soaring over California first and then make our touring plans after that.

We are not going to make any PS for this day since nothing jumps out at us. Since I've heard some good things about the corn dogs, we'll have to try those. (I'm sure that they are on the Weight Watchers low point list).

Actual:

We arrived a little sooner than previously thought. We were able to check in and get our room. So we unwound a little and got to the park by 11:30. We went straight to DCA. My husband needed food so we searched for someplace to eat. Since this was Thursday, some of the restaurants were closed. We finally ended up at the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. The food was good, not great. Once we were full, we headed into the Tortilla Tour and into the Bakery. These were both educational, but we like the Bakery Tour better. Next it was time for It's Tough to Be a Bug. We saw this in Florida and were happy to see that it was here in California.

We walked over to the Condor Flats area and got Fastpasses for Soaring and then let the kids go on the Grizzly water ride. This looks like a great ride, but you have to realize that it was cold outside. The kids loved it and went on it several times. After they were finally done, we tried to dry them off as well as we could and we waited just a few minutes until the Fastpass window to opened up. This was really a fun ride and all of us enjoyed it. My husband, who is afraid of heights, said that there were a few times when he was holding on to the seat for dear life because it felt so real.

At this point, we decided to head over to Paradise Pier. On the way over we saw the Ivy lady. She is really amazing. Our first ride in Paradise Pier was the Golden Zephyr. This is an okay ride. It's very short and I'm glad that we didn't stand in line very long. The kids did the Orange Stinger about 4 or 5 times. While we were waiting for them, a very nice cast member on a "beach" bike came over and talked with us for a few minutes. I really like how Disney has put these cast members in the park. Her costume was themed very well and she was very nice. We then went on Mulholland Madness and walked over to the Sun Wheel. I have to preface this by saying that I HATE Ferris Wheels. But this one looked tame and safe. After all, the cars are enclosed with a cage. So the others convinced me to get on one of the swinging cars. Well, it was safe, BUT, it wasn't tame. The rest of the family loved it, but don't ask me to get on it again.

Our next ride was the California Screamin. We loved this coaster. It is probably one of the best coasters I have ever rode. It's not a leave-your-stomach-at-the-top kind of coaster (which I also love), but more of a "family" coaster. I think Disney did a nice job combining a fun and thrilling coaster that everyone can ride. We rode this several times and then we looked around the gift shop by the Avalon Cove.

We walked over to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Since it was almost time for the Electrical Parade, we only did the Muppets 3D movie and Millionaire. The Muppet 3D is my favorite movie at the Disneyland Resort. It is really fun how they use the entire theatre. Millionaire could become very addictive if you let it. Even my daughters thought that it was fun. Our host was very professional and made it enjoyable. But none of us got to the hot seat or even in the top 10. It must have been rigged! (LOL)

We walked back to the Paradise Pier area for the Electrical Parade. We went to the corndog stand and got corndogs for everyone and sat and watched the Electrical Parade. I'm so glad that they brought this parade back. I have to admit that it's not Main Street, but it is still great. My kids loved it. This was the first time that they saw it and it was memorable for them.

We waited and watched Luminaria from a distance and it was very beautiful. We looked around the shops in the front area for a little while and we were able to see the Believe fireworks from the main entrance. This got us excited for our time in Disneyland the next day. We made it back to the shuttle area and called it a night.

I tried to stay up to watch ER, but didn't make it. I guess 3 hours sleep the night before finally caught up with me.

Day 2, Friday, December 14, 2001

Disneyland

Plan:

I'm going to make PS for the character breakfast at The Plaza Inn. We have usually done the early morning breakfast, but usually it's just eating at a "fast food" restaurant. This will be nice start to our Disneyland Day.

We will probably do Pirates first. This always gets us into the Disneyland frame of mind (not that it's hard to do). We will hopefully get to use Fast Pass at least once. I would like to see how it works.

We plan to eat a light lunch and a small dinner. We like the chowder at Royal Street Veranda. It's good on a cold evening. Then it's back to the hotel for another day.

Actual:

This started out as an interesting day. First, I didn't worry about breakfast at the Plaza Inn since we had free breakfast at the hotel. We then went out to the shuttle. When we got on the shuttle, it wasn't raining, but by the time we drove two minutes down the road, it was pouring outside. Apparently there was a SLIGHT chance of rain. I had inadvertently left the poncho and umbrella in the room. So we decided to stay on the shuttle and get the poncho and umbrella since it looked like the rain was not going to stop. We did this and got to Disneyland around 10:50 (Disneyland didn't open until 10:00).

When we got over to Adventureland to go on Pirates (always our first ride), we noticed that Indiana Jones was down (we were going to get a Fastpass). Then we realized that Pirates was also down. Apparently ALL of the rides at Disneyland and DCA were down. There was a power surge for the City of Anaheim and this caused all of the rides to go down due to safety reasons. They had to go through safety checks for all of the rides before they would work again. So we decided to look around the shops for a little while.

This is where it got even more interesting. My husband was just diagnosed with diabetes the week before we left. He had a low blood sugar attack in a back courtyard of New Orleans Square. After what I gave him was not making him better, we called first aid. They came rather quickly and were very helpful. They took him to First Aid in a wheelchair (in the pouring rain) and helped him get his sugar back to normal. Due to the fact that we are new to this and the doctors had told us nothing, they were well informed and gave us a lot of good advice. He was feeling better after a short amount of time and we were back on our way.

Adventureland rides were still not running, so we headed over to Fantasyland and rode the Matterhorn first. This was very wet due to the fact that it was still raining a lot outside. According to Victoria, it's better when it rains, but I couldn't tell because the rain was beating against my face so hard. Our next ride was Small World. This was a nice place to try and warm up. The great thing was that when we went into Small World it was raining a lot. But when we got out, the rain had stopped and the sun came out.

We then made our way back to ride Pirates before our reservation at Blue Bayou at 3:00. Perfect timing for two reasons. First, we got off the ride at about 2:45 and second, as we were stepping from our boat, they announced that the ride was temporarily not working. So we hightailed it to Blue Bayou for our reservations. I was able to make these through Disney Dining, which saved us a lot of time due to the long line to get same day reservations. We requested a water view and were told it would be about 20 minutes, but we barely sat down and were called. Our server was very efficient and nice. The food was good and my daughters had a nice time. The last time we were in Disneyland, Blue Bayou was closed, so this was a special treat for them.

Since it had rained so much everything stayed wet outside and it was starting to get real cold. So of course Splash Mountain would be the next thing that we went on. (LOL) Victoria couldn't wait to go on this ride. Just when we were getting dry, we got wet again. But the ride was very fun. After Splash Mountain we went to the Haunted House. I have to admit that I didn't like this ride. But I usually don't like the Haunted Mansion either. So that is just my opinion.

We walked to Adventureland to get Fastpasses for Indy and the return time was for an hour later. We decided to walk over to the Thunder Mountain Railroad and we were able to get right on. This was a lot of fun at night. We then headed over to Fantasyland and rode Peter Pan. It had a little bit of a wait, but it was worth it. I just love that ride. It was time for our ride on Indy so we headed back to Adventureland. I love the theme to this ride. The CMs are dressed great and the wait area is straight out of a movie. This ride is a lot of fun, but VERY bumpy.

We went into Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain. Due to the power outage earlier, a lot of the lights and special effects were not working. The soundtrack for Space Mountain was not running and the whole area seemed REALLY dark. Last time we were on Space Mountain, we got stuck right at the top of the ride by the red light. We never got to finish the ride. They actually turned on the lights and we had to walk all the way to the bottom. So Victoria had never rode Space Mountain and couldn't wait. She loved it more than the rest of us. Don't get me wrong, it's a great coaster, but I'm getting too old for all of that bumping around. My head kept slamming against the back of the seat. I actually thought that I was going to get a concussion. But we all survived.

The two girls and I rode Space Tours. My husband stopped riding this ride years ago (he is very prone to motion sickness). It's a great ride, but the three of us got very dizzy. The girls then rode the rockets. It was time to re-fuel so we headed to the Plaza Inn. This was the first time that we ate here and it was really nice. Especially having silverware instead of plastic spoons and forks.

We looked around Main Street for a while until it was time for Believe and then we got a nice seat at the Plaza Inn outside dining area (they had heaters set up). This is a nice place to watch, you just have to make sure that you can see the top of the castle from your seats. The fireworks were very magical and beautiful. I'm not a huge fireworks fan, but these were exceptional. At the end we rushed over to Main Street to see the snow. This also was very special. It was good enough that everyone clapped at the end of the snow.

We looked at some more of the shops to let the crowds thin and then we called it a night.

Day 3, Saturday, December 15, 2001

Disneyland

Plan:

We will finish up Disneyland today. Hopefully we will get to see everything. Last time we were able to experience everything except the Carousel and Abraham Lincoln. It was truly a memorable trip. We will probably eat at Blue Bayou for lunch (another Weight Watchers low point menu). I like to make the latest lunch PS possible. It is basically dinnertime but at lunch prices. This worked for us in WDW.

Actual:

What a difference a day can make. We made it to the park around 10:00. I have never seen Disneyland this crowded before. The line to get a locker was almost to the Magic shop. We fought our way back to ToonTown to look for a locker. After realizing that there were only about 50 lockers and 80 people trying to get them we KNEW we were fighting a losing battle. We got on the train at ToonTown and made our way over to DCA. What a difference. We got a Fastpass for Soaring and decided to get some food. We went to the Test Pilots Grill that is right in front of Soaring. The food was pretty good.

Since it wasn't time for our Fastpass yet, we went over to Hollywood Backlot and did the Animation Tour. We went through the Sorcerer's Workshop and took the personality test. I was Belle, Jillian was Jane and Victoria was Mulan. Shane decided not to risk the fact that he REALLY might be the Beast and sat out. We saw the movie about Walt. This was really a great movie. They really should highlight it even more. I think that if more people saw the movie, there would be a greater appreciation for what he accomplished.

It was now time for Soaring. I think that we enjoyed this even more the second time. It really is a great ride. After Soaring, we made our way over to Paradise Pier. We didn't do the Grizzly water ride this time. It was too cold. The Ivy Lady was out again and had a bigger crowd today. She was really cool. The girls rode the Orange Stinger several times. I passed up the Sun Wheel (I told you I would never get on it again). Jillian and I rode California Screamin and we bought the picture this time. I really love that coaster.

We gradually made our way back over to Hollywood Backlot. We walked around the streets and rode Superstar Limo. What great anticipation with the costumes and props in the ride. THEN, you ride. Kind of a stupid ride. It really could have been so much more. The ride broke down when we got almost to the end. Thank goodness they turned the sound off and turned on the lights. It could have gotten a little annoying. So we walked, instead of riding, the last part of the ride.

By now, it was starting to get dark and cold. We figured that Disneyland might be slowing down a little. WRONG!!!! It was still crazy. We tried to get to Autopia then to ToonTown. We finally stopped the fight again and went to Downtown Disney. This is where the best part of our day occurred. While we were walking we heard a beautiful song being played. It was the theme song from "Somewhere in Time". At first we thought that it was atmosphere music , but then we realized that there was a gentlemen playing the electric violin (Drew Tretick), and we were just amazed. He can play so beautiful. He also played the song "Time to Say Goodbye". It actually brought tears to my eyes. I love all kinds of music, rock, country, and classical, but this was very special. There are people that are really musicians and then there are people that have the music in their souls. This is how he played. The music was part of him. He was such a joy to watch and the music took you to another place. After playing a few more songs, he took a break and signed his CDs. He also was a very nice and down-to-earth person. If you are going to Downtown Disney, you really should stop and listen. You will not be disappointed.

We went on the search for food. We finally ended up at Hollywood and Dine in DCA. My husband had the Chinese food and was disappointed, but I had the bbq chicken pizza and liked it. It was very quiet and relaxing after the huge crowds of the day.

It was getting closer to the Believe fireworks so we worked our way over to Disneyland and fought the crowds again. We sat in the same spot at the Plaza Inn. The fireworks were beautiful once again and we made it back to Main Street for the snow. After the snow, we decided to hang out and let some of the crowd go away. We were going do a few rides since Disneyland was open for a few more hours, but everyone else had the same idea. So we decided to go back to Downtown Disney and listen to Drew a little bit more. After his last set, we went and did a little shopping in the World of Disney and then called it a night.

I did some packing and went to bed. It had been a great day in spite of the large crowds.

Day 4, Sunday, December 16, 2001

Plan:

Shopping, Disneyland and DCA

Our plane doesn't leave until 7:30 pm. So we plan to do last minute rides, shopping and get to the airport in plenty of time to make our flight. With all of the new security checks, it may take us a few hours.

Actual:

Today was our last day. How fast the vacation comes to a close. I finished the packing in the morning and rushed to get breakfast. We got to the park about 10:00. What a beautiful day!!! Crowds were manageable and it was actually fairly warm. Our first attraction was Mr. Lincoln. The girls thought that this would be dumb, but I really wanted them to see it. So we went in and watched the movie on Walt (another touching movie) and looked at Walt's office before going into the show. They really did a nice job on redoing the show. The scissors and whispering in my ears sent chills down my spine. It was very realistic. The girls really enjoyed it and they still talk about it a month later.

We then hopped onto the Train and got out at ToonTown. We were able to get right onto Roger Rabbit. It is another favorite of mine. We walked through some of the shops and then got in line to see Mickey. We had to wait about 20 minutes but it was worth it just to get a hug from the Big Cheese himself. We were able to see Mickey on the set of Fantasia.

The next ride was the Go-Coaster. The condition of this ride is VERY sad. But I will add more on that later. ToonTown was getting pretty busy at this point, so we hightailed it over to Tomorrowland.

We got a Fast pass for Autopia. Still a kiddie ride, but very cute. Especially the "off-road" area and the "Car Park". The girls and I went on Space Mountain one last time. This time, to my daughter's delight, the music was playing and Mom got another concussion. By then it was time to eat so we went to the Plaza Inn and had a very nice lunch.

Since the shuttle would pick us up in a few hours, we decided that we better do our souvenir shopping. We had actually put most of the shopping off until today. We did our silhouettes (a family tradition dating back to my childhood) first. The next stop was the music store where my girls were able to get the CDs that they had been waiting for. I then went across the street to the Emporium and was very disappointed in the selection of products that they had. So we left the park for the last time and went to the World of Disney. This was a very nice store. I was able to get most of my souvenirs plus some. We had a little over an hour left before our hotel shuttle picked us up, so we went back into DCA. I was looking for a few small souvenirs for my sister (antenna ball with glasses) and I only found it in the park. I sent the girls off to ride Superstar Limo one last time while I did my shopping. Then it was time for us to leave. So we said goodbye to Disneyland for now and went to the hotel to wait for our airport shuttle.

When I made the reservations for the shuttle they told us they would pick us up at 5:30. They were very prompt, but when we got to the airport, check-in was all of 5 minutes and the security check took about 3 minutes. So we had about 2.5 hours to kill. We got dinner at Carl's Jr. and hung out there for a while. The time actually went very fast and it was kind of nice to sit down for a while. The flight home was very uneventful and we landed around 10:00. My father and sister surprised us at the airport when we arrived and helped us get our luggage. My girls were thrilled to see them. We made our way to the car and arrived home around 11:00. I had to be at work the next morning so it was straight to bed for me.

Conclusion:

We've heard such negative remarks about the new park that we weren't expecting much. We were pleasantly surprised. When you look at the small touches that Disney has put into the park, it is pretty amazing. We just went to a Six Flags park in September and I have to tell you, it couldn't hold a candle to even the worst park at the Disneyland Resort. After the HUGE crowds at Disneyland on Saturday, we felt relaxed in the park (which of course was because there was nobody there). We really enjoyed the "atmosphere" music of the park, the Animation Building was fun (I think that it was a lot better than MGM Studios in Florida), and Soaring Over California and California Screamin' were great fun. We will definitely go back DCA and enjoy our time there.

We really loved the Embassy Suites. It was nice to have room to stretch out and having 2 TVs was a nice perk. Free breakfast saved us money and time in the morning. The hotel staff was very helpful and nice. Everything was superb.

Disneyland had its good and bad points. With my husband's emergency, the care that we received was top-notch. The food was good, but just as everything else is, very expensive. I was VERY disappointed in the demise of ToonTown. I think the condition of this "land" is very disgraceful. I would actually say that it was almost filthy, and that was the day after a major rain. The rain should have cleaned a lot of grime off. The park officials should stand in line for the Go-Coaster a few times and see how horrible the ride looks. I hope that they fix this up soon.

But not to leave the park on a negative note, even the day that all the rides were down, we still had a great time and almost all of the CMs that we met, went out of their way to make our stay memorable. Going in December was a beautiful time to go. One of the best memories that we have is the "snow" on Main Street. It added to the magic of Disneyland.

Downtown Disney was a lot of fun. Watching Drew play his music was absolutely memorable and we hope to see him play more.

We enjoyed our trip very much. I actually have the "Disney Bug" even more than before and I think that the kids have caught it as well. I hear just about every other day, "When are we going back to Disneyland?" or "I wish I was in Disneyland." We are planning to go back in the Spring, possibly for my nephew's wedding.

Donia Camarena

doniacamarena@hotmail.com


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